Chicken Dance

Not to be confused with The Chicken (dance).

The "Chicken Dance", also known as the Birdie Song or the Chicken Song, is an oom-pah song and its associated fad dance is now a contemporary dance throughout the Western world. The song was composed by accordion (Handharmonika) player Werner Thomas from Davos, Switzerland, in the 1950s.


Flap the wings

The name of the original Swiss song was "Der Ententanz" (The Duck Dance). It is rumored to be a drinking song sung at Oktoberfest. Sometime in the late 1970s, the song acquired the name "Vogeltanz" (The Bird Dance) or "Vogerltanz" (Little Bird Dance or Birdie Dance), although these names never caught on seriously in Germany. On some sheet music and recordings it is called "Dance Little Bird". It appears that no one in Germany uses the term "Kükentanz" or "Huhn/Hühnertanz" (Küken means chick, Huhn/Hühner means chicken (sg./pl.)). Since 1963 Werner Thomas had played it in restaurants and hotels. During one of Thomas' performances, Belgian producer Louis van Rijmenant heard the song. Van Rijmenant had some lyrics created and in 1970 released it to the public through his publishing company Intervox Music (later on co-publishing with his other company Eurovox Music) without much success. However, on subsequent releases of the song, Van Rijmenant was listed as co-author under the pen name of Terry Rendall. Eurovox Music now manages the publishing rights worldwide, except for the US (September Music), UK (Valentine Music) and the Netherlands (Benelux Music), sub-publishers. The dance and song was originally brought from Germany to the US by Eddie Duling and Larry Karhoff of Glandorf Ohio in 1974.

In 1980, Dutch local band "De Electronica's" released an instrumental version called "De Vogeltjesdans" ("The dance of the little birds") as the B-side of a single. The A-side was not a hit, but local radio stations in the south and east of the Netherlands decided to flip the disc and started playing "De Vogeltjesdans". The record entered the Dutch charts and stayed there for over seven months, and started the international success of the song. On some recorded releases of the music Werner Thomas is listed as the sole composer, while on others other authors are listed, e.g., as "Thomas/Rendall/Hoes", the last name referring to Dutch singer/producer Johnny Hoes, who re-arranged the song for the Electronicas recording (which was released on Hoes' own record label, Telstar Records). He also wrote new Dutch lyrics for the song, although the Electronicas version is an instrumental one (Hoes himself recorded the vocal version, but that did not become a hit).

Ozseeker the Clown doing the "Chicken Dance" at a Municipal Band concert in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Since then the song has become known under numerous other "birdie" names, including "Vogerltanz" (Bird Dance), "Danse des Canards", "Baile de los Pajaritos", "Chicken Dance" and "Dance Little Bird". Over 140 versions of it are recorded worldwide, including various versions that were released by Walt Disney Records, together making over 40,000,000 records.

The dance was reintroduced in the United States in 1981 during the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oktoberfest. They wanted to demonstrate their love through dance in costumes, but there were no duck costumes available anywhere near Tulsa. At a local television station, however, a chicken costume was available which was donated for use at the festival, giving the "Chicken Dance" its name.[1]

In 1982, polka-loving cover band "The Emeralds", from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, recorded a polka-inspired version of the song, released by K-Tel records. The album "Bird Dance" went double-platinum in Canada, and gold in Australia.[2] The song also contributed to the success of multiple gold albums for the Emeralds in 1983 and 1984. The song went on to further fame when it was used in two movies: John Paizs's cult classic Crime Wave, and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.[3]

Chart success

In 1981 Henry Hadaway produced a version of the "Chicken Dance", which was released in the United Kingdom as an instrumental novelty tune "The Birdie Song" by The Tweets. It reached number two in the singles chart in October 1981, making it the most popular version.[4][5] In 2000, this version was voted "the most annoying song of all time" in a poll commissioned for the website dotmusic.[5] The song is often sung with lyrics with a little bit of this and a little bit of that and shake your bum to the tune. Alternative lyrics are "I don't want to be a chicken, I don't want to be a duck, So I shake my butt, Quack, quack, quack, quack!"

Dance steps

Chicken Dance

The "Chicken Dance" song is accompanied by a dance requiring a group of people, and it goes as follows:

Notable performances

The Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio, holds a "World's Largest Chicken Dance" annually. There were 48,000 participants in 1994. On 20 September 2004, rock musician Vince Neil served as Grand Marshal. In a compilation of the 40 Least Metal Moments, the U.S. cable television channel VH1 panned this performance as the single least metal moment in heavy metal history.

In 2006, the Chicken Dance opened "Weird Al" Yankovic's polka medley "Polkarama!" from his album Straight Outta Lynwood.

On 13 November 2009, CIHT-FM played the Chicken Dance continuously until 389 Tickets for the CHEO Dream of a Lifetime were purchased at $US100 each, to support the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.[6] This played for over 3 hours.

Giant Chicken in Byron Center, Michigan

In a fund raiser for Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, an attempt at the world's largest chicken dance record was held at Byron Center, Michigan, US on 23 April 2010, at Jake's restaurant, the site of a giant plastic chicken sculpture.[7]

During the 2015-2016 NHL season, the Philadelphia Flyers had the chicken dance played over the PA system[8] at the Wells Fargo Center every time the Flyers scored 4 goals in that game. The Flyers had a partnership with Chick-Fil-A where customers could get free breakfast sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A the day after every game where the Flyers score 4 goals or more.

See also


  1. Mills, Russell. "Services schedule for Tulsa's 'Mr. Oktoberfest,' Josef Hardt". KJRH-TV. Archived from the original on April 10, 2010.
  2. "The Emeralds Awards".
  3. "Edmonton Journal – The Bird Just Keeps On Dancing".
  4. "1980s music charts: 1981 July-Dec". Pure 80s Pop.
  5. 1 2 "Birdie Song tops hall of shame". BBC news. July 24, 2000.
  6. "The New HOT 89.9: We're playing the Chicken". Twitter. November 13, 2009. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  7. Dawson, Phil; Campbell, Mat (23 April 2010). "Community "Chicken Dance" closes Grand Rapids-area road". WZZM 13 Online. Grand Rapids, Michigan: WZZM 13.
  8. NHLHornsandSongs (2015-10-30), Philadelphia Flyers 2015-2016 Goal Horn, retrieved 2016-10-23
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